FLASH! The Los Haro Summer Camp makes #3 in the top 10 projects at the Virtual Fair at the Global Forum on Migration and Development in Athens, Greece.
Los Haro Summer Camp
The Los Haro Summer Camp program began in 2007 as a pilot project to address the needs of children and youth of a border-spanning Mexican community. Thousands of Mexico-U.S. transnational communities have developed over the last half century as people have left their villages in search of jobs and opportunities in the United States. One of these transnational communities connects Napa with the small village of Los Haro, located in the Jerez Valley in the Mexican state of Zacatecas. Men from Los Haro first came to the Napa Valley in 1952 when there was a shortage of workers to bring in the grape harvest. In the half-century since hundreds more have followed to work in vineyards and wineries as well as in the many other jobs and services that help make Napa what it is today.
There are more than two hundred families from Los Haro now settled in Napa County. As with the children of Mexican immigrants in general, life for the second generation can be a confusing challenge. They are caught between two worlds and often find themselves struggling to reconcile their parents’ reality with the need to function in a society that is at once unfamiliar to their parents, and full of risks for themselves. Researchers have found that the immigrant children who stay in school and do best in America are those who retain a connection with their parents’ culture. Awareness and respect for their origins allows for the maintenance of strong family ties and inter-generational bonds, and provides children with a sense of self-worth that helps anchor them while they navigate the turbulence of adolescence in the United States.
The Los Haro Summer Camp emerged from the concerns of the Los Haro Support Committee (Comité de Apoyo Los Haro), a Napa-based volunteer hometown organization. In the past, dedicated members of the Los Haro community in Napa have raised funds for a variety of projects to benefit the home village, including support for the church, to purchase an ambulance, to upgrade the potable water system, to help pave village streets, among other projects. Now this new Committee is taking a fresh approach as it seeks to address problems facing the next generation, both at home and in Napa.
In August of 2006 members of the Los Haro Support Committee gathered to conduct a diagnosis of their home community’s future prospects and concluded that without serious intervention their village would continue its downward spiral towards decay and abandonment as emigration to the United States continues unabated. They noted that new types of problems and tensions are emerging as increasing numbers of youth from the United States travel home to spend the summer with relatives, but once there find themselves with little to do. Adults in Los Haro report growing conflict between local and visiting youths, and a rise in vandalism, alcohol and drug abuse.
In response to this situation, and in consultation with relatives and neighbors in Los Haro, the Committee decided to launch a youth-oriented program to address the need for healthy summer activities, to promote pride and respect for the village, to enhance learning opportunities for both local and visiting youth, and to build bridges of friendship between the two groups.
While this summer camp program is now happening in just one Mexican village, Committee members see it as a model that in future can be replicated by other Mexican hometown organizations in Napa and beyond. Through community gatherings, slide shows and other presentations, the Los Haro Support Committee will be sharing its experiences and lessons learned with other hometown organizations in the months and years ahead. Besides strengthening Mexican families and contributing to youth well-being and self worth, this program aims to build bridges of friendship and understanding between Mexican families and the wider Napa community. To this end, the Committee will be reaching out to schools, service clubs, businesses and employers, community organizations and sympathetic individuals.
Click on the link to Summer 2007 to get a glimpse of what was accomplished in the first year of the program. The success of that first camp, and the enthusiastic response from parents and youth alike, convinced the Committee to try to make this an annual program, and the Committee has succeeded in sponsoring the Summer Camp in 2008 and 2009, each time expanding in order to accommodate the ever-growing numbers of children and youth wishing to participate. Funding-raising to date has been an all-volunteer effort, such as the sale of holiday tamales in late 2007, soliciting donations and ticket sales for community events. Our most important fund-raisers have been made possible by Markham Winery in St. Helena. Thanks to the generosity of Markham Winery, its President Bryan Del Bondio and winery staff and crew, we have been able to host an annual "Fiesta Los Haro," elegant sir-down dinners inside the winery.
The funds raised are used to hire a program coordinator in Los Haro, an assistant and camp counselors during the two-week period of the summer camp. The funds we raise also help cover materials, field trips and modest stipends for village elders who are an active component of the camp, sharing their knowledge of local traditions, crafts and lore. To date the program has operated on a shoestring with no overhead, considerable volunteer time, effort and goodwill.
A new addition to the program in 2009 was the introduction of a summer travel grants for two students at Napa Valley College, to travel to Los Haro and serve as adjunct camp counselors. This was made possible by the generosity of the Gmelch family whose inspiration and commitment led to the Gmelch-DeHaro Grant. You can read more about this innovative effort to involved college students in the Los Haro Summer Camp Program by clicking Summer 2009 in the bar to the right.
The Committee is grateful for the continuing support it receives from the Napa County Hispanic Network (our non-profit fiscal sponsor), Napa Valley College, Markham Winery and the Gmelch Family. In Mexico, it is fortunate to count on the support of Dr. Rodolfo Garcia Zamora of the Doctoral Program in Development Studies at the Autonomous University of Zacatecas, as well as municipal authorities in Jerez, Zacatecas.
We look forward to growing and expanding the program in Los Haro and are happy to share our experiences and lessons learned with others who might be interested in setting up similar programs in other transnatinal communities.